By Jeb Wright
Bun E. Carlos sat on the drum stool for Cheap Trick since the band formed in 1973. In 2013, lawsuits replaced jamming. Once the dust settled, Carlos was no longer a recording or touring member of the band. He remains part of the band in a business capacity, however.
Carlos caught up with Goldmine to discuss his future as the ex-drummer of Cheap Trick. He remains a positive man, however. He is “honored” to be inducted into the Rock Hall and in the interview that follows, he happily recounts many of Trick’s most famous albums as he prepares to promote the release of his new solo album, “Greetings From Bunezuela!”
Goldmine: At the end of the day, are you satisfied with the way the situation was worked out? You almost sound like you’re just glad that it is all over.
BEC: Yeah, I am just glad it’s over. You know, this wasn’t my idea not to tour with the band. That is about all I can really say about it. We used to be pretty good friends and we are really not any more. There ya go. I am really not here to sling mud and sh*t like that.
GM: What are you up to now that you’re not a touring or recording member of the band?
BEC: I wheel and deal in a lot of drums, as I am a drum collector. So there is a lot of that going on. I was the Cheap Trick archivist, so I spend some time organizing my archives. What to do with them is the next question. I do this and that. I am enjoying life. One big difference from five years ago is that I’m enjoying not going to airports pretty much five or six days a week. I don’t miss that part one bit. That’s nice not to have to go to O’Hare and get degraded.
GM: Tell about these archives.
BEC: Whenever there was a review I would grab a copy. If there is only one copy of something I would grab it. I have recordings … we would record the shows every night. At the start of a tour I would buy a bucket of DAT tapes or CDs and listen to the shows and see what’s working and what’s not working, so I have all that.
GM: Will Cheap Trick ever release the old live shows in the archives?
BEC: The cost of doing production on that,… putting it all together, is high. We did some fan club CDs 10 years ago and I kind of trolled some of the tapes for that stuff. It was a lot of work and a lot of production. I don’t see that happening again, at this point, unless someone ends up with the archive down the road and wants to do something with it.…But it probably wouldn’t be me.
GM: I will be honest with you…, with Rick’s son (Daxx Nielsen) in your spot behind the kit, it is just weird not to see you back there … but they are still a good band. I do miss your unique personality on stage, though.
BEC: Some people have told me that. They say it is kind of like the ’80s when that “other guy” played bass.
GM: I hope you still can be happy looking back despite this lawsuit.
BEC: Oh yeah, I am proud of every note I played in Cheap Trick. They put out a box set a few years ago with all of the albums in it and I picked it up. I got the CDs out and I thought, “It’s time to review this stuff.” Some of it I am more proud of than other parts of it. There are some records in the ’80s where I am like, “What were we thinking?” There is stuff like that. It all hasn’t aged 100 percent like fine wine. I am not complaining. We have a great catalog.
GM: If I had to put you on the spot, what is the most underrated Cheap Trick album?
BEC: I would think “Next Position Please.” That one is definitely underrated. Todd Rundgren produced it and he did a great job. The thing still sounds great where the mix is concerned. There is some stuff on there like the Rockman on the guitars that puts it about at 1983 and some piddly things like that. There are a couple of songs where we are reaching like we were trying to do a rock opera, or something like that, but nine out of 10 tracks just sound great and I still enjoy listening to it. There are a couple of records surrounding it that are quite the opposite. I don’t like listening to those as much.
GM: I have to ask you about “At Budokan,” the album that ironically broke the band in the U.S.. Did you know that Cheap Trick was huge in Japan?
BEC: We didn’t know it. In the fall of 1977 the Japanese press came to Detroit to shoot The Runaways. Cheap Trick and Tom Petty were opening for them. There was a lady at CBS International who was the intentional press agent. She was there and she told them to check us out. They loved our image, our sound and our songs.
When we were flying to Japan we were told there may be some fans there to meet us. We were taxiing up to the gate and we were like, “Why are all these people here?” You don’t think they are there for you … That was fun. It was fun and it was funny.
GM: Next was “Dream Police.” Do you still have your Dream Police suit?
BEC: As a matter of fact I do! They took the badges off the caps when we were done because I think they rented them from some place. Whatever happened to them, they are gone. The suit probably wouldn’t fit me, but I do have the hat as well.
GM: Were The Beatles more of an influence on Cheap Trick or was The Who?
BEC: A guy just gave me a tape from 1974 and we sound like The Who during Live at Leeds with Robin singing Cheap Trick songs. The Who was a major league influence on us. We used to do “Substitute” and “Shakin’ All Over” when we did cover tunes. The Beatles were a massive influence on us way before The Who. It’s probably a coin toss.
GM: Is there anything you look back on and wish you could do over?
BEC: I have not really looked at the stuff in that way. I don’t go, “How could I improve this stuff?” because it is done. If I listen back these days, I may have a thought like, “If I was doing this now maybe I would have done that part a little different.” I don’t even do that a whole lot. I am pretty happy with it as it turns out.
GM: You are a true music fan I have heard. Legend holds you went to a lot of concerts.
BEC: I grew up listening to great bands and going to see great bands. I used to go see every band that came around. I would write all of the songs down and I would sneak in with the roadies if I could. I snuck in with The Who’s roadies. I was like 16 or 17 at the time. When I was 14 I snuck into The Yardbirds dressing room and I interviewed them. I met Jeff Beck and Jim McCarty. Before guys are professional musicians they are teenage music nutcases. That’s how it turns out.
Back in the day I saw The Yardbirds. I went and saw The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five. I saw Hendrix, Cream and The Who. I saw Hendrix four times in one year and Cream three times in one year. I was in a high school band and I would save my money and spend it on concert tickets. Those were fun times. I would have to take the bus into Chicago.
I remember the first time I saw Hendrix. He was at the Civic Opera House. I got there and I had tickets to the second show, but I got there in time so I bought tickets to the first show. I was just gobsmacked. After the second show I was on the bus on my way home and I thought, “No one is going to believe this tomorrow at school. How am I going to explain to them how cool this was?” It was a great time to see bands.
GM: Last one: Does it ever weird you out that there are fans like me who want to hear that lost tape from a concert in Toledo in 1977?
BEC: I am one of those guys! I am one of those guys, and I know a bunch of those guys. Recently, I found something good in the archives and I thought about posting it on my website, but I mothballed that. Maybe somewhere down the line if I am getting along better with (Cheap Trick’s) management, then maybe I will post some stuff. GM